Found In The Russian Store: Pickled Tomatoes

This post is dedicated to the International Pickle Week – “A week so good – we made it last 10 days!”

What’s red and explodes in your mouth (with flavor)? I don’t know about you, but for me the only answer is pickled tomatoes. I can distinguish three major types of pickled tomatoes: pickled, marinated or conserved, and green. All three are represented in the cornucopia of pickles that is your local Russian or Eastern European store, mostly canned but sometimes in bulk. If you are lucky, your grocery store might carry Ba-Tampte brand green pickled tomatoes in the refrigerated section, but I haven’t been able to find them lately, even in the Kosher Hen House in Leawood, KS (they do carry another brand which is overpriced and not as good). For the rest of your unsatisfied pickle cravings there isn’t much choice but to make a trip to the Russian store.

Pickled tomatoes come in many sizes, usually in 1 to 3 liter jars and anything in between. Don’t be tempted by the mix of pickled tomatoes and cucumbers, you’ll be better off buying them separately. If you’ve never tried pickled tomatoes before, start small and see if you like them.

In the worst case you’d be out of $3.99 and you can always try feeding them to your in-laws or leaving the opened jar in your office fridge – guaranteed to be consumed, especially if there is an evening or night shift at your workplace.

This jar contains marinated tomatoes – the kind preserved by adding vinegar.

On the front you might see the word “маринованные“, which means “marinated”. They are usually slightly more mouth-puckering but very flavorful and delicious.

There is apparently a labeling law for the foreign-made food products which mandates an English label on the packaging. I am pretty sure not 100% of the products you see in the ethnic stores have English labels but in this case the law worked and you won’t have to pretend you can read and understand Russian.

By the way, if you actually read the ingredient list and wondered what the “sweat pea” is doing in the jar of pickled tomatoes, don’t worry, it’s an unfortunate translation accident: they meant to say “peppercorns”.

Pickled tomatoes have soft, almost liquid texture and some pressure might be built up under the skin. To relieve the pressure and avoid spraying your table-mates with tomato juice, you need to first poke it with a fork. Then carefully bite or gently suck the contents of the tomato and enjoy.

The other type of red pickled tomatoes is a kind that’s actually fermented in brine and pasteurized to preserve. I prefer these to the marinated ones, since I am not a huge fan of vinegar (although you can’t go wrong with pickled tomatoes). The Russian store sells them in bulk in the refrigerated section and you can probably find them canned by 1)reading labels, 2)knowing a Russian person, 3)guessing. You can also make them at home by using my simple recipe or finding one on the internet. Keep in mind, if the recipe includes vinegar, you will be making the marinated tomatoes.

Salted and fermented foods are good for digestion and overall health, and for preventing parasites from making home in your intestines, or at least that’s what my Grandmother always told me.

A short trip to the Russian store will save you from eating bland foods slathered in ketchup for the rest of your life. Put a pickled tomato in your mouth to have an explosion (of flavor) you’ve been missing.

While you are at the store don’t forget to pick up some smocked mackerel, hot smocked fish, kissel, unrefined sunflower oil, and candy.